How to enjoy research for a novel
by Heidi Eljarbo
Ask an avid reader of historical fiction if research is important, and the answer will be an unanimous, “Absolutely!”
Last year I taught a class about research at a writer’s conference in the USA. When preparing the presentation, I placed a survey on two Facebook groups. Yes, I did some research for my research class. I wanted to know how readers felt about research for historical novels.
I wrote, “I’d like to know your opinion. How important is historical research when you pick up a book? Do you enjoy learning new things about the time period of the novel you’re reading?”
Many readers answered that historical facts sparked their interest; they wanted to learn more; they followed up by doing their own research. A common answer was also that research is essential, and they especially don’t like inaccuracies, anachronism, or too many unnecessary descriptions.
Proper world-building will place the reader right in there with the characters. They need to know about the clothes, food, religion, politics, customs, and so much more. An author who chooses historical fiction as his or her genre should have a special interest in history. Because as you research, learn, and become acquainted with the time period you’ve chosen, the story will come alive. Writing historical fiction requires a passion for the craft, and weaving in interesting history without making it read like a textbook or making it obvious adds the attention-grabbing details.
My latest novel, Brushstrokes from the Past, is a historical art mystery. It’s a dual timeline with elements of three things I am particularly interested in: WWII resistance, the seventeenth century, and art history. The research has been fascinating and fun. I’ve studied about brave women during the last days of WWII, delved into the life and times of Amsterdam in the year 1641, and even discussed how to write an airplane scene with a fighter pilot.
Then there’s art. I have a passion for art history…always have…and finding information about master painters, techniques, hues and compositions, and the beautiful renditions they created, has been rewarding.
The Soli Hansen Mysteries is a dual timeline series. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, but they are more enjoyable when read in order as both stories progress. A common theme is the baroque artists who perfected the technique of chiaroscuro—the play of light and dark—in their paintings. We meet Caravaggio, Rubens, and Rembrandt van Rijn.
Brushstrokes from the Past is the fourth book in this series. Going deeper into Rembrandt’s personal life has been wonderful. I have moved beyond his work as a master painter and gotten to know him, not only as artistically gifted, but as a husband and father. His love and admiration for his wife Saskia made a deep impression on me. His sorrow for the children they lost was immense. These studies have made this Dutch Golden Age painter even more heroic in my eyes.
Brushstrokes from the Past takes place in 1641. Rembrandt is 32 years old, lives with his beloved Saskia in an expensive canal house, and he is widely celebrated as an extraordinary artist. He is working on an enormous painting we know as the The Night Watch where he implements the use of sunlight and shade (chiaroscuro).
Close to a hundred self-portraits—paintings, etchings, and drawing—made it easy to describe Rembrandt’s looks in book three and four. In Brushstrokes from the Past he is a close friend of fictional French musketeer Claude Beaulieu and his Jewish-Italian wife Annarosa Ruber.
How is Rembrandt’s portrait of his musketeer friend discovered in the spring of 1945? And who wants to get their hands on the precious artwork? You’ll have to read Brushstrokes from the Past to find out. Enjoy the adventure and journey!
Here’s the blurb:
A Historical Art Mystery
WWII and the mid-seventeenth century are entwined in this fourth dual timeline novel about Nazi art theft, bravery, friendship, and romance.
April 1945. Art historian Soli Hansen and her friend Heddy arrive at an excavation site only to find Soli’s old archeology professor deeply engrossed in an extraordinary find in a marsh. The remains of a man have lain undisturbed for three centuries, but there’s more to this discovery…
As Soli tries to understand who the baroque man was and discovers what he carried in a sealed wooden tube, problems arise. A leak reveals the finds to the notorious Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Walter, and soon, both Nazi elite and the Gestapo are after the treasure.
When Heddy and the professor disappear along with the artwork, Soli and her resistance group must find them before it’s too late.
1641. In Amsterdam, French musketeer Claude Beaulieu has had his portrait done by his close friend and artist Rembrandt van Rijn. When a band of thieves steal the precious painting, Claude and his wife Annarosa Ruber pick up their swords and a few belongings and go after the culprits.
Set in Norway during the tumultuous last days of the second world war, as well as the peak of the glorious baroque art period, these two stories are a must for readers who love historical fiction with adventure, suspense, and true love that conquers all.
Perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley, Kathleen McGurl, Rhys Bowen, and Katherine Neville.
Available on #KindleUnlimited
Meet the author:
Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.
Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.
After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.
Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.
Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.
Sign up for her newsletter at https://www.heidieljarbo.com/newsletter
Connect with Heidi